Mac DeMarco opens ACL’s 44th taping season with soft jams

photo by Scott Newton

A new season of Austin City Limits begins, and we were happy to open Season 44 with a rising artist making his debut on our stage: singer and songwriter Mac DeMarco. Celebrating his acclaimed fourth LP This Old Dog, the Canadian-turned-Californian by way of Far Rockaway, Queens, graced his loyal fans with an interactive set of his distinctive soul-flavored soft rock, which we streamed live around the world.

Taking a stage artfully cluttered with fake fruit, real pound cake, plenty of red wine, a Michael Jackson mask and assorted bric-a-brac, DeMarco and his four-piece backing band launched into the smoothly flowing “On the Level,” from This Old Dog. Switching to acoustic guitar, DeMarco revisited his second LP Salad Days via the poppy title track. Then it was back to the new album, as the creamy sound of an electric grand piano signalled the drift into “For the First Time,” a very eighties-sounding soft rocker that thrilled the under twenty-something crowd and prompted livestream viewer Pierce Hannah to rave “Mac Daddy rocking the yacht rock vest with these smooth, smooth tunes.”  “We’ve never played this song as a band,” DeMarco noted, introducing the lightly rocking “One Another,” “but we’re gonna try to play it for you.” That successfully pulled off, he and the band cheekily kicked into its opposite number “Another One,” highlighted by a twangy guitar solo. Following a brief interlude in which the engaging rocker shared parmesan cheese (the powdered stuff, that is, not freshly grated) from one of the Italian restaurant-style tables adorning the stage, to the delight of the grateful front row, DeMarco essayed the title track of This Old Dog, a spell-binding dreamy pop tune.

“Now we’re gonna play a song we haven’t played in…four years?” DeMarco noted. “Fifteen years,” quipped guitarist Andy White. “The last time we played this song I was thirteen.” This was the intro to the easygoing “Brother,” from Salad Days. “So take it slow now, brother/Let it go,” the singer crooned over a languid, soul-influenced groove. Keeping it casual, DeMarco explained the next song was about his father, with the genial host again offering pound cake to his guests as the band went into a piano-heavy soft pop tune. He invited a couple of exuberant young fans to join him onstage, and after a quick lesson in shakers, the duo added to the percolating percussion. The band then reached back to his second album, the appropriately titled 2, for “Ode to Viceroy,” another easygoing pop song with harmony Stratocaster licks at the end. After sharing some red wine with another fan (whose ID he checked first), it was back to TOD, for the languorous “Dreams From Yesterday.”

One rendition of “Happy Birthday” to a fan later, DeMarco rode a jazzy, soul-pop vibe into “Chamber of Reflection,” powered by clapping from the crowd. He closed the show with the sugary romance of “Still Together,” on which he showed off a striking falsetto. Before the song was over, however, drummer Joe McMurray switched places with DeMarco to lead the crowd in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge.” Then DeMarco reclaimed the mic for another couple of choruses of “Still Together,” before quitting the stage. It was a refreshing ending to the show, letting the audience down easy instead of overwhelming them with bombast. We can’t wait for you to see it when his show airs this fall on your local PBS station.   

Taping recap: The Turnpike Troubadours

photo by Scott Newton

The final taping of a season is always the setting for a blowout, and that’s what we got with the Austin City Limits debut from Turnpike Troubadours. The Oklahoma country rockers hit our stage in support of their highly acclaimed fifth LP A Long Way From Your Heart – a title that proved ironic, as there’s obviously a short distance to that organ in their devoted fans’ chests.

The Americana stars took the stage to huge applause, launching into “The Housefire,” the opener of A Long Way. The band then started mining its extensive back catalog with the rocking “Every Girl,” a song co-written by guest keyboardist John Fullbright, the danceable “Kansas City Southern” and passionate “1968,” all from the 2010 album Diamonds and Gasoline. The Troubadours then reached all the way back to their 2007 debut album, with the Cajun-flavored dancefloor filler “Bossier City,” before returning to the new album for the electric folk of “The Winding Stair Mountain Blues,” inspired by a true story from singer/songwriter Evan Felker’s Southeast Oklahoma past. After six skillet-lickers in a row, the band slowed down a tad for “Pay No Rent,” an earnest ballad in tribute to a friend of Felker who passed away. “Good Lord Lorrie” worked a similar groove to even more anthemic effect.

The red-dirt anthems continued with the widescreen rocker “A Tornado Warning.” Felker then strapped on a banjo for the folk-rocker “Gin Smoke & Lies,” its melody a clever variant on the old folk song “Shady Grove.” That led into the blazing “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead,” which had the buzzing audience clapping along from the start. Steel guitarist Hank Early switched to a Dobro for an acoustic duet with Felker on “Diamonds and Gasoline,” much to the crowd’s delight. The band returned for a romp through “Whole Damn Town,” before the penultimate, lighter waving waltz “The Bird Hunter. The Troubadours closed the show with “Something to Hold On To,” a track co-written by Kevin Russell, beloved leader of Austin’s own Shinyribs and the Gourds. The song ended in a three-way solo frenzy from Early, lead guitarist Ryan Engleman and fiddler Kyle Nix, which made the audience go wild.

The show wasn’t quite over yet, however. As is an artist’s prerogative, the Troubadours decided to redo a few numbers, starting with “The Housefire.” The band ripped through another take on “The Winding Stair Mountain Blues” before finishing with a new version of “A Tornado Warning.” Fortunately, the audience were perfectly happy to enjoy those songs again. It was a great show and a nice way to close out the season, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 43 on your local PBS station.  

Taping recap: Dan Auerbach

photo by Scott Newton

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Dan Auerbach is no stranger to the ACL stage – his band The Black Keys have appeared twice on the show. This was his debut solo taping, performed with his Easy Eye Sound band and special guest Robert Finley, in support of his first solo album in eight years, the acclaimed Waiting on a Song. The record’s bright, countrified pop/rock contrasts nicely with the Keys’ grungy blues rock, and the show, which we streamed live around the world, followed suit.

Wielding an acoustic guitar, Auerbach and his band of legendary Nashville session players opened with the title track, a folk rocking welcome to a night of music. “Livin’ in Sin” followed, its country rock groove highlighted by the harmony guitars of Russ Pahl (who last appeared on ACL in 1993 with Great Plains) and Cage the Elephant’s Nick Bockrath. Auerbach switched to a Telecaster and Pahl to an electric sitar for “Malibu Man,” a soul-inflected tune with prominent harmonies from mandolinist Pat McLaughlin, another ACL vet, having visited in 2005 as a member of John Prine’s band. The frontman introduced members of the band, specifically “Memphis boys” Gene Chrisman (drums) and Bobby Wood (electric piano), both of whom have Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin on their extensive resumés. The group then romped through the darkly funny pop tune “Stand By My Girl” (“because she’ll kill me if I don’t”). Auerbach noted that many of the bandmembers had also played on songwriting god John Prine’s first album, before going into the sweet country rock of the unreleased “Somewhere Between Eau Claire and East Moline,” a song Auerbach co-wrote with Prine. Next up, the grooving “Pull Me Under Love” is another unreleased song that featured a Pahl/Auerbach duel on guitar. Auerbach introed the rest of the band before launching into the psychedelic swamp rock of “Cherry Bomb.”

Auerbach noted that he and his Easy Eye crew also make records for other people, bringing on one of those folks: Louisiana soul singer Robert Finley. Resplendent in his black leather cowboy hat and shades, the silver-haired, smoky-voiced Finley wasted no time going into the slinky “Medicine Woman.” “Let’s do one more with Robert,” said Auerbach, which cued the Southern soul of “Get It While You Can,” a classic in waiting. That was unfortunately all the time we had with Finley, but Auerbach made up for his absence with the lovely ballad “Never in My Wildest Dreams.” The band stayed with the easygoing vibe for “Tangled Love,” yet another unreleased song, and the album’s breezy “Show Me.” Auerbach ended the show with “Shine On Me,” the sprightly pop song that’s the first single from Waiting on a Song. The audience loved it, dancing along from the first bar. It was a sharp, memorable end to a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs in early 2018 as part of our Season 43 on your local PBS station.

Taping recap: LCD Soundsystem

photo by Scott Newton

The return of LCD Soundsystem to action after a five-year layoff is one of 2017’s biggest success stories. So we were thrilled to welcome James Murphy and his cohorts for the group’s debut Austin City Limits taping. The band lived up to every expectation and delivered a career-spanning set that rocked the packed house.

The octet took the stage casually before a lone synth pulse signalled the beginning of “Oh Baby,” the synth-popping opening track of the band’s latest album American Dream, their first career #1. Murphy thanked the audience for coming and expressed excitement for being on the show, noting that they’d never done anything like this before. Then it was on to “Call the Police,” the rocking first single from Dream. Assuring the fans that the show wouldn’t consist solely of new songs, Murphy reached back to This is Happening, formerly the group’s final LP, for the bouncy “I Can Change,” perfectly balancing romantic woe, disco rhythm and pop melody. The dance rhythms continued for the cheeky, percussion-heavy “Get Innocuous!”  and the groovily defiant  “You Wanted a Hit.” The propulsive powerhouse “Tribulations” followed, making the crowd a roiling mass of dance moves. Before anyone could catch breath, the synths led into “Someone Great,” a soaring pop tune that featured close harmonies between Murphy and keyboardist Nancy Whang.

In order to let band and audience have a moment, Murphy introduced the musicians. But the reprieve didn’t last long, as it was off into the noisy hipshaker “Change Yr Mind,” its relentless groove and anthemic vocals contrasted by six-string skronk. The guitar clangor continued, ornamenting the pulsing, playful, percussion-soaked “Yr City’s a Sucker.” The band’s penchant for mixing rock anthems with dance rhythms asserted itself in a big way for “Tonite,” which segued directly into the aggressively danceable pop song “Home.” The electropulse continued without pause as Murphy moved to a piano, Al Doyle started a chicken scratch on guitar and Nancy Whang took the mic for a driving cover of Chic’s immortal disco classic “I Want Your Love,” which made an already wildly dancing audience thrash even harder. After that breathless rush, the main set ended with “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” which started out mellow before ending in a power waltz that drove the crowd mad.  

A brief pause later, the band returned to the stage, Murphy explaining that he had to pee. Before anyone could divine whether or not he was kidding, Doyle banged out the big riff that kicks off “Emotional Haircut,” one of the combo’s wittiest tunes. The show ended with the pop anthem “All My Friends,” Murphy embracing the title by hopping offstage to shake hands with the front row. It was a perfect ending to a phenomenal show, one we can’t wait to show you when it airs early next year on your local PBS station as part of our season 43.

Taping recap: Shinyribs

photo by Scott Newton

Kevin Russell is no stranger to our stage. The leader of Shinyribs last hit Austin City Limits in 2007 while a member of Austin’s beloved Gourds. Since that group’s breakup, Russell has taken his vision of roots rock in a more soulful, danceable and theatrical direction with Shinyribs. Four albums and countless live performances later, he and the band finally came back home for an ACL taping that was a celebration of all things Shiny, livestreamed worldwide in all its glory.  Livestream viewer Brenda Walker raved of the riotous East Texas frontman, “Kevin really IS the Pavarotti of the Pineywoods” and Priscilla Promises chimed in “U in Austin bAaBeE.”

Introduced by hype man Trey Worth as “the Shakespeare of swamp pop” and “the shiniest man in show business,” patriarch Kevin Russell took the stage to brag about being “Country Cool,” allowing each member to show off his instrument during this slice of soul pop. The swamp to which Worth alluded earlier bubbled up in “Don’t Leave It a Lie,” a muddy groove accompanied by the Riblets, a trio of female dancers acting as Russell’s own Ikettes. Wielding a mean ukulele, Russell indulged in some call-and-response with ace backup vocalists Alice Spencer and Kelley Mickwee for the tropical soul of “I Got Your Medicine,” the title track to the band’s fourth and latest LP. The ‘ribs gleefully blended swamp rock, funk, c&w and yodeling for the epic “Song of Lime Juice & Despair,” complete with a Riblets ‘n’ Russell dance routine. The band then pulled out an inspired cover of David Bowie’s “Golden Years,” set to a double-timed rhythm (borrowed from the Drifters’ “On Broadway”) that allowed Russell to indulge in vocalese lifted from various R&B hits.

Russell took the mood from party-hearty to wistful by dedicating the slow-burn soul song “Who Built The Moon” to much beloved local bassist George Reiff, recently passed from cancer. The group then dropped in for a quick New Orleans visit, covering Allen Toussaint’s finger-popping R&B tune “A Certain Girl,” first recorded in 1961 by Ernie K-Doe and boasting cracking solos from Russell, keyboardist Winfield Cheek, saxist Mark Wilson and trumpeter Tiger Anaya. Doubling as a possible name for Shinyribs’ musical gumbo, “Tub Gut Stomp & Red-Eyed Soul” followed, reminiscent of key Russell influence Doug Sahm. Continuing his musical tour of Texas, Russell guided the band to the Lone Star/Louisiana border for the soulful “Take Me Lake Charles.”  After the frisky pop and roll of “Walt Disney,” Russell dug deep for “I Gave Up All I Had,” a powerful cover from the catalogue of the late soul man Ted Hawkins.

While Russell crawled back up from the floor, bassist Jeff Brown and drummer Keith Langford (a fellow ex-Gourd) started up a roiling groove that signalled the frisky funk of “Baby, What’s Wrong?” which also included a mock fight between Russell and the Riblets. Shinyribs concluded the main set with the jungle pop of “Poor People’s Store,” which generated the band’s traditional conga line on the floor – joined, of course, by Russell himself. The audience couldn’t let the night end just yet, though. The band came back for an encore, starting with a song “about my favorite root vegetable.” The ballad “Sweet Potato” doubled as an excuse to introduce the band, Russell noting each member’s root veggie preference rather than his or her hometown. Russell crawled to the edge of the stage and back in mock fatigue, before a Riblet draped a sparkling robe over his shoulders—what Russell called “a luminous cloak”—his very own technicolor dreamcoat with light-up lining in ever-changing colors. As the song drifted wistfully to an end, Russell picked up his guitar, cranked up the volume and grunged his way into the rock ‘n’ soul of “East TX Rust,” the robe making him look like a glam rock Jawa. “Let’s get it on now!” he demanded as he put his axe through its paces, and there wasn’t a soul in the crowd who would disagree. The song ended in a riot of guitar, horns and an audience going wild. It was a fantastic show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 43 on your local PBS station.

ACL Hall of Fame inducts Roy Orbison, Rosanne Cash and the Neville Brothers, with a special tribute to Fats Domino

photo by Gary Miller

Last night three American musical innovators were inducted into the fourth annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame: singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash, New Orleans funk ‘n’ soul collective the

Neville Brothers and late rock & roll legend Roy Orbison. The evening featured one-of-a-kind music performances and tributes from Elvis Costello, Brandi Carlile, Neko Case, Ry Cooder, Dr. John, the Mavericks’ Raul Malo, Trombone Shorty, the Nevilles Band and host Chris Isaak.

Austin’s renegade brass ensemble the Minor Mishap Marching Band led the audience to their seats with a second line, setting the scene for a party. After opening remarks from KLRU-TV CEO Bill Stotesbery and ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, Chris Isaak took the stage to welcome the crowd and introduce the first tribute. “He was a baritone, tenor and angel,” said Isaak about the late, great Roy Orbison before inducting his hero. Orbison’s three sons Wesley, Roy, Jr. and Alex and granddaughter Emily and grandson Roy III accepted the award, noting that this ceremony, including Cashes, Nevilles and Orbisons, was a family affair. Then, of course, came the music: the Mavericks’ Raul Malo belted “Crying,” Brandi Carlile nailed “It’s Over” and Isaak crooned “Only the Lonely” as if it was written for him. Carlile returned, and she and Isaak harmonized divinely on “Dream Baby,” one of Orbison’s friskier tunes. There was only one way the Orbison tribute could end, as Malo joined Isaak and Carlile for a joyful “Oh, Pretty Woman.”

After Isaak introduced honoree Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello inducted his friend, noting the power and skill in her voice and words. Cash accepted her award with humility, explaining how ACL helped her feel part of a music community when she was starting out, making her ACL debut in 1983 at age 28.  Costello returned, along with Cash’s husband and creative collaborator, guitarist and producer John Leventhal, for the stirring affirmation “April 5th,” a song co-written by Cash, Leventhal, Costello and Kris Kristofferson. Spiritual descendant Neko Case took the stage next, for a transcendent version of the aching and defiant “What We Really Want is Love.” Cash herself re-entered with her friend (and guitarist extraordinaire) Ry Cooder for the sparse, strong “A Feather’s Not a Bird” – a song from Cash’s 2015 triple-Grammy-winning album The River & the Thread and proof that she’s as brilliant now as she’s always been. Costello and Case came back for “Seven Year Ache,” Costello alternating chorus vocals and Case and Cash sharing harmonies like they shared an episode back in 2003.

House bandleader & ACL Hall of Fame inductee Lloyd Maines introduced the ace house band including guitarist David Grissom, bassist Bill Whitbeck, drummer Tom Van Schaik and keyboardist/mandolinist Chris Gage. Then it was on to intermission, as Minor Mishap played, the audience danced and the ACL crew reset the stage for the grand finale.

The second half of the show brought the funk, with a celebration of New Orleans music. Given that the sad news of the passing of rock & roll pioneer Fats Domino broke earlier in the day, ACL elected to open with a video of the New Orleans icon singing “Blueberry Hill,” taken from his classic 1987 ACL episode. The first induction of the second half honored a non-performer – the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. The milestone signing helped pave the way for PBS.  Johnson’s granddaughter Catherine Robb and Amy Barbee, chairperson of the LBJ Foundation, accepted the award.

Isaak returned to the stage to introduce the first family of New Orleans music: the Neville Brothers. New Orleans sensation Trombone Shorty, a kindred musical hybridist, inducted the family with colorful stories about the Nevilles with whom he lived and toured as a child. While the brothers couldn’t be there, Aaron Neville’s son Ivan, Art’s son Ian and Charles’ son Khalif accepted on their behalf before taking their places behind their instruments (keyboards, guitar and more keys, respectively). Ivan introduced Dr. John and Elvis Costello, who came up to help with a rollicking take on “Ain’t That a Shame,” in tribute to its author Fats Domino.

Backed by Shorty, Ian, the Grooveline Horns, Ivan’s Dumpstaphunk bandmate Nick Daniels and longtime members of the Nevilles’ band Brian Stoltz, Tony Hall and Willie Green, Ivan asked the audience, “Are you ready to get funky?” Then it was into “Fire & Brimstone,” one of the Nevilles’ greatest tunes, sung by Hall. The group paid tribute to the Nevilles’ predecessor act the Wild Tchoupitoulas with that band’s call to arms “Meet De Boys on the Battlefront.” Things got even funkier for “Brother Jake,” a gem from the band’s late 80s’ sleeper Brother’s Keeper that really got the crowd going. Khalif then joined Ivan on keyboards for “Healing Chant,” a Grammy-winning instrumental from the band’s seminal Yellow Moon that featured Shorty on a lyrical trombone solo. That special breed of New Orleans funk burned brightly on “Fire On the Bayou,” one of the Nevilles’ signature tunes, earning a standing ovation. The Nevilles mini-set came to a close with the exultant dance party of “Shake Your Tambourine.”

But the music wasn’t over yet. Ivan brought Dr. John back to the stage for “Big Chief,” the Earl King-penned/Professor Longhair-popularized shout that has been in the repertoire of nearly every New Orleans and N.O.-inspired dance band for five decades. Elvis Costello rejoined Shorty, the Night Tripper and the Nevilles for a distinctly New Orleans groove through the traditional standard “Down By the Riverside,” which ran directly into its musical cousin “Amen.” That song brought Isaak, Carlile and Malo to the stage as well, and the audience was on their feet, ready to join in Ivan’s call-and-response. As the song reached its climax, confetti burst and the musicians rang in the Austin new year a couple of months early. The roof was raised, and the 2017 HOF celebration came to a close. Viewers everywhere will get to join this party when it airs as a special broadcast on New Year’s Eve on your local PBS station.

Taping recap: Chris Stapleton

photo by Scott Newton

After years of penning others’ hits, singer, songwriter and guitarist Chris Stapleton took the country and Americana scenes by storm in 2015 with his multi-platinum, Grammy-winning debut Traveller.  Since then the Kentucky native has gone from strength to strength, releasing the follow-up From a Room: Volume 1 earlier this year to great success, and hitting the road with his “All-American Road Show” tour in preparation for the companion release of Volume 2 on December 1. In the midst of another banner year for the now superstar artist, we were thrilled to host him and his crack band on the ACL stage for the first time.

The singer/guitarist took the stage with drummer Derek Mixon, bassist J.T Cure and his wife and fellow traveler, singer Morgane Stapleton, and wasted no time launching into the bluesy groove of “Might As Well Get Stoned,” showcasing both his stinging guitar and blowtorch soul. Stapleton hit the honky-tonk for “Nobody to Blame” and the ballad box for “Broken Halos.” He then unveiled “Hard Livin’,” a new song from the upcoming Volume 2 that revived classic 70s country rock for the twenty-first century. It was back to Volume 1 for the stoner anthem “Them Stems,” before another brand new tune: the choogling “Tryin’ to Untangle My Mind,” which, from the crowd’s reaction, is destined to be his next hit. Stapleton then really let it all ride, singing the bluesy ballad “I Was Wrong” with raw hurt. He then stripped down musically, dismissing the band and wielding an acoustic guitar to reclaim the Traveller gem “Whiskey and You,” formerly a hit for both Tim McGraw and Jason Eady.

Cure and Mixon returned as Stapleton explained that he wrote “The Devil Named Music” while he fronted the bluegrass band the SteelDrivers. The classic road dog ballad sounded right at home in its current electric arrangement, highlighted by its guitar solo. Gifted vocalist Morgane returned for “Outlaw State of Mind,” a swampy tune that mixed Creedence Clearwater Revival with the 70s country of its title. The song ended in a shriek of feedback that served as a bridge to “Death Row,” a crawl through the heart of darkness. The black clouds parted, however, with “Traveller,” the title track hit from his breakthrough debut and a song that elicited immediate screams from the audience. The Stapletons wrapped their voices around each other for the romantic affirmation “Fire Away,” the couple’s harmony showing in both voice and intimate glances. Things got a little crunchier for “Second One to Know,” a Volume 1 corker that unabashedly rocked.  

Stapleton ended the set with another hit. “Tennessee Whiskey” has been recorded by David Allan Coe and George Jones before Stapleton wrapped his pipes around it, but his version keeps the honky-tonk balladry and adds a dollop of southern-fried soul. The band left the stage to rapturous applause, but of course it wasn’t over. Stapleton and company returned to a thunderous reception. “What a treat to play Austin City Limits – I guess I’ll have to find a new dream,” he declared before crooning the delicate breakup tune “Either Way” solo acoustic. The band returned for closer “Sometimes I Cry,” a slow blues burn that pushed his full-throated rasp to its limits. It ended a sharp, powerful set, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 43 on your local PBS station.  

Taping recap: Run The Jewels

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High intensity. Lyrical smartbombs. Killer beats. Those are the hallmarks of a great Run The Jewels show, and those elements were in abundance at the debut taping by the rap superstars.

“We’re gonna light this shit on fire like Willie Nelson would light a joint,” declared Killer Mike after an intro of Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” He wasn’t kidding, as he, rapping partner El-P and DJ Trackstar exploded with “Talk To Me,” as energetic an opener as any rock band could provide. Mike’s rapid-fire delivery contrasted nicely with El-P’s punk rock bluster, with Trackstar throwing in the occasional interjection. “Legend Has It” and “Call Ticketron” kept the energy high, the crowd shouting “RTJ!” during the call-and-response section for the former. After thanking the show and warning the crowd about the profanity to come (“We curse like goddamn sailors, kids!”), the band launched into “Blockbuster Night Pt. 1,” Mike showing off why he’s one of the most acclaimed MCs on earth with a stream of superspeed wordsmithery. The band showed off its sardonic sense of humor with “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “36” Chain,” the latter previewed by an El-P speech about handing out invisible gold chains to the crowd with each ticket.

As if the room wasn’t vibrant enough, the duo engaged the crowd for the intro of “Stay Gold,” one of the new album’s most indelible tracks. Trackstar provided both an ambient segue and a brief but fiery scratch solo for “Don’t Get Captured,” one of the group’s most political anthems. A sampled sitar earned immediate cheers and led into “Nobody Speak,” a clear audience favorite. But that was nothing compared to what came next. After Killer Mike declared, “I don’t care what anybody says about watching too much TV – I know I’m smarter because of PBS,” RTJ launched into the booming, cheerfully profane “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck),” which drove the audience even further into a frenzy. So they were primed for a titanic “Hey!” to intro “Hey Kids.” More social commentary followed in the blazing “A Report to the Shareholders,” before El-P exposed the raw emotions underneath the group’s bravado for “Thursday in the Danger Room,” an elegy to anyone who should be with us but isn’t.  

“We’re gonna do a song now that we’ve never quite pulled off,” said El-P, as singers Joi and BGV joined RTJ for “2100.” Then, singer Boots also arrived to add his crushed velvet croon, recreating his studio parts. They definitely pulled it off. Joi joined Mike and El-P on the frontline for the empowering “Down,” as perfectly uplifting a song to end a set with as can be. The band left the stage, but the break didn’t last long. The audience cheered wildly as RTJ returned to the stage for the angry, provocative “Angel Duster,” during which Mike and El-P joined the crowd on the floor. It was an explosive performance, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station as part of our Season 43.